atlas, project management, means, Toby Elwin, blog, pmi

Project Management Around the World — The Hub of the Universe

Project management, around the world, atlas, toby elwin, #pmflashblog

The Project Management Institute view of how the world is held high … hey, wait a minute, where’s Boston?

From the Hub of the Universe comes this recovering project manager’s view:

  • Project managers know where project success relies: project management
  • People from Boston know where the Hub of the universe lies: Boston

Both, however, disconnect themselves from majority view:

  1. Those outside project management are, generally, unaware of project management’s boast for project success; and
  2. Those outside Boston are, generally, unaware of Boston’s boast as the Hub.

The above views present both insular and delusional states of self-importance. The majority do not even feign acknowledgement of a Hub of which I speak. Just as too-few organization interactions acknowledge project management boasts.

From Hub to Outlier

In too many organizations around the world project management discipline is not mature, not accepted, and not an acknowledged, competence path to project success. The Project Management Institute (PMI) view posits that the world spins on its very axis through the grace of a certified, Project Management Professional (PMP), stewarding the initial revolution project.

We have a disconnect.

Why is this?

No professional would not want functional capability to identify, manage, and mitigate any of the following:

  • Project constraints to understand scope, quality, schedule, budget, resources, and risk relationship;
  • Scope management planning;
  • Risk management planning;
  • Stakeholder management planning;
  • Work breakdown structure/dictionary; and
  • Project Life Cycle

Here’s why: no one cares as much about you as you and a project manager, cognitive bias of project management reveals the project manager belief for the critical success factor is a deeply held project management view of the world.

The challenge is that we see what we are:

  • An accountant sees debits and credits;
  • A lawyer sees litigation and hourly fees;
  • A Lean/Six Sigma black belt sees waste;
  • A business architect sees capability models;
  • A human resource person sees compliance and litigation (strangely similar to a lawyer, hmm?)

A project manager views a new project through up-front identification, managing expectation, change control, work breakdown structure, stakeholder management. Those not project managers only see tools, templates, forms, and meetings – few others are tolerant for that.

Project Management

There may be enough to acknowledge project management need, but not enough to commit to required project management discipline.

Just get it done and leave me be is the attitude.

Ask someone to sit down to identify scope, stakeholders, risk, and impact and their eyes glaze over, or, as my 1st-year, MBA professor used to say, MEGO: Manager’s Eyes Glaze Over.

Ask for a sign-off on a communication plan and suddenly, meetings shortened and attendance sparse. What we do impacts them and they only care about what’s in it for them?. Just like the scorpion and the frog (turtle, pelican … whatever) fable in the brief video below, what we say is not what people care about.

Conceptually, yes, yes, yes, the organization does want better project management.

Realistically, however, organizations all want to have better accounting discipline too, but who loves pending meeting run by accountants when they have an organization they prefer to run than meeting with bean counters? No one sees more accountants invited to more meetings, unless we are talking about an accounting all-hands meeting.

Few want to head to an operational meeting with HR involved, even fewer to a meeting held in HR and you their guest. From the Hub, I see project management as a profession that, outside of the construction industry, is not the big deal we believe it, ourselves, is.

Project Management Step to Recovery

I consider myself a recovering project manager because the function did not fit acceptance. Project manager ability to scope and deliver an effort is critical to organization value in money saved and motivation to deliver, but

I believe reliable project management is one of the final frontiers of competitive advantage, though I bet Lean/Six Sigma folks and process reengineer folks feel the same.

I would never aspire to a project manager career.

I would never, again, aspire to a project manager role.

However, since dedicating myself to project management skills at Deloitte, subsequent PMI certification, and active roles with PM communities throughout the North East, United States, I can not imagine career success without the project management knowledge, ability, and skills, as well as I do.

According to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (5th Edition, as of this writing), project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. That defines a set that is not just nice-to-know, but a required-to-know for any professional who looks to identify and manage any budget, in any organization, at any time.

It is not about risk, it is about ranking risk and MEGO (Manager’s Eyes Glaze Over) risk.

It’s What I Do

Now that I know project management, I know of no other way to look at an effort without attempt to tighten scope, identify risk, understand the impact, and manage stakeholders. It is now, routinely, what I do.

The goal for project management is to become a reliable, scalable discipline to scope and deliver projects and products. Just as an accountant strives for 100% compliance an organization 10% better is 10% better than it was.

Incremental improvement is improvement none-the-less. So is incremental organization, project management discipline.

Fatefully, though, I have never met a manager, leader, or executive who backs up project management rhetoric with the same commitment – to say nothing of project management disciple from themselves … scope anyone?

The sooner project management realizes we do not deliver a process, but a promise, is the sooner we move to relevance. Really, the business of business is business. Business health comes as either 1) top-line growth or 2) increased margin and this only comes from two, acknowledged areas: sales and finance.

Project management delivers to both opportunity, but so says organization development and so says system engineers. Where I sit, project management is functional, like accounting and financial management, and represent the table stakes for any person looking to move from an individual contributor to a professional manager.

Project management, accounting, and financing are need-to-know for any professional manager to move to executive manager. A required set of development skills, not a job title.

Project management maximizes resources; no organization would not value that competence.

Sadly, just because project management delivers, never expect a stakeholder or sponsor to accept invitations to an impact assessment meeting, change control board review, or a genuine lessons-learned project closing session.

No one likes to talk about scope management as much as I like to talk about scope management, but for some reason, no one else wants to hear how much I like to talk about scope management, either.

Tools, templates, templates, tools all are irrelevant compared to business objective.

Project management is what we do, not what they want done and not what they want to hear about.

From the Fringe to the Hub

Boston as the Hub of the universe.

Success relies on project management.

Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the term Hub of the Solar System as a term for the Massachusetts State House. The accepted term, among the few who know, has now morphed into Boston as the Hub of the Universe. The universe is much bigger than our solar system, but if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears, who cares what we call the Hub and what we call a spoke.

The hub of organization success relies on successful project scope and project delivery, but getting other’s commitment within the organization is our biggest challenge that we need to resolve to move from a fringe outpost to the hub of relevance.

From the Hub of Universe I see few care as much about project management as project managers.


#pmFlashBlog, Toby Elwin, blog, project management, #pmFlashBlog2This post is the second #pmFlashMob coordinated by the tireless, tremendous, but very sensible, Project Management, ambassador Mark Phillipy.

Project Managers represent a mob worthy of the Lexington Green and I appreciate the invitation to write on Project Management around the World.

Look for subsequent, #pmFlashMob2 posts and all the rabble on these dates:

  • March 3rd – North America
  • March 10th – Europe
  • March 17th – Australia & New Zealand
  • The rest of the world

The blog post follows Shim Marom’s initial #pmFlashMob and my contribution What does project management mean to me – a project manager’s sermon.

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Comments 9

  1. Hi Toby,

    I have nothing to say. Speechless. Lower jaw swinging loosely.

    THAT is one of the best articles I have E.V.E.R. read. EVER.

    I loved it. Couldn’t stop. Pressed print and saved to Pocket and emailed to Evernote before I’d finished.

    Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever read a Project Management article that connected with me in quite that way. The language, passion, colour, love for the profession, whimsical humour.

    Well, well, well done mate!

    1. Post

      I am really happy this post found a connection with you. Provocative as it was, I thought writing on project manager myopia, around all-things-solved-through-project-management, would prove very limited. Though, as I wrote, project management is my most valued skill learned, it feels like fundamentalist religion:

      >>>> Everyone thinks their religion is correct and all other’s wrong;
      >>>> Any dedication to frame solution in the project management framework feels like a door-to-door, proselytizing effort;
      >>>> On-going revival meetings reinforce the right in might;
      >>>> Regular tithing to mother church reinforces the need to prove value; and, of course;
      >>>> The PMBOK

      Your time to share your words and reactions is quite rewarding. I appreciate being in this cabal with a contributor, like yourself, dedicating themselves to advance project management beyond the back room. I look forward to continue to learn from you.

      And to make an Australian laugh, now that is a rewarding.

  2. Hi Toby
    Thoroughly agree.

    You might enjoy some old writings of mine like Methods Madness and here ASAPM Newsletter. I think we have a similar outlook. PM is not the discipline its the enabler. The topic of relevance is managing the lifecycle of investment triggered by change and often forced change.

    Do you know Jon Whitty’s paper om memes in PM?

    more at Papers

    Simon @pm_ngt

    1. Post

      Great of you to share both resources. I enjoyed digging around each and felt a particular shared pain in moments.

      I also tracked down a good source for the Jon Whitty paper A Memetic Paradigm of Project Management through a blog I enjoy tremendously, Eight to Late, by Kailash Awati called A memetic view of project management where Awati links to Whitty’s paper.

      I appreciate the time you took to read my post, provide a comment, and recommend some wonderful sources.

      Thank you Simon.

      1. The @Jon_witty paper is my favorite in a long time.

        Seems a lot of bloggers see the scope of our needs as benefits to the business not pm manuals used mainly with exam focus

        By the business, for the business! A healthy focus which will drive enhanced performance

        Best regards Simon

  3. Toby

    I can not agree more with Tony’s comment I was also nodding as I read it (and saved to Evernote!). Absolutely brilliant my particular favourite was the scope management part with that you made an Englishman laugh!

    1. Post
  4. Hi Toby,

    Great material.

    Some things to consider about the Project Management “disconnect”…

    1) Project Management is “generic” while things like IT Project Management, Construction Project Management, and Clinical Study Project Management are all very specific. It is important to understand the details of how to deliver successfully within your domain of operations. Would you want a Project Manager managing every step of a critical surgery on your heart if he/she wasn’t at least as competent as the doctor doing the work? Sadly, many PMs in many industries are not as good or as knowledgeable as those doing the work.

    2) To the above point, PMI generates lots of Project Management “generalists.” Just because you know general PM doesn’t mean you’re going to be good at delivering within the domain of operations. Therefore, it becomes critical for Project Managers to look for certifications and frameworks for successful delivery, within the domain that they operate in.

    3) Project Management is not strategic or about strategy. It is about execution. This means that Project Managers rarely are part of creating or understanding the broader vision of why things are being delivered. For this reason, it’s important for Project Managers to do their best to understand the context of what they’re delivering and why they’re delivering it.

    4) Project Managers need to be aggressive about identifying new project issues and driving them, relentlessly, to resolution. Too many PMs sit back and do nothing but take notes, create & report status, and make sure that forms are filled out to meet the minimum standards of an organization’s processes. If this is all a PM is doing, my suggestion is releasing your PM and hiring an Admin at a fraction of the cost.

    5) Too many Project Managers create steps in Project Delivery Processes (i.e. Project Management Processes) that have more to do with logistics that help them secure their jobs than with actual delivery. Good PMs know to eliminate as much logistical overhead as possible and to focus on those steps that yield real and tangible progress for delivery. For example: Filling out a form to request approval = Overhead. Making sure Testing is complete = Focused Delivery.

    Anyhow, I hope this helps.

    My Best,

    Frank Guerino
    The International Foundation for Information Technology

    1. Post


      Agreed and appreciate the outline.

      If all did what was needed no need would arise for roles that keep accountability. As we know there is a role for HR, for lawyers, for accountants, for managers, for security, for unions. There are many roles that intended to help and many who take those roles need to balance guidance, governance, oversight, and oppression.

      Humanity is a strange lot, capable of so much self-organizing, but so fearful of so much self-organizing.

      Always appreciate your perspective and presentation.



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